A Different Sip and Puff Party
By Kimball Livingston Posted March 13, 2014
[Editor’s note: This journey was completed on March 19 after nine days at sea]
Yeah, yeah, you’ve been to the other sip and puff, but if you’re a regular reader you know the pride I take in the way that sailing, as a sport, has embraced disabled sailing. It took a while, but we’re there.
Sailing, after all, is one of the few activities in which a person reduced to not much more than the ability to breathe can get out and breathe fresh, fresh, fresh air, take action, make things happen and even compete. You can’t get much more impaired than the need to rely on what disabled sailors call “sip and puff” control. In that case, the skipper creates air pressure variations by inhaling or exhaling through one or more straws. Those variations trigger responses in the steering and trim systems. I’ve seen this in action on little boats. Now there’s an ocean voyage under way. You might want to take a closer look at the image above, to see who’s actually driving the boat.
These two women are already at sea, sailing 850 miles from Mumbai, India to Oman, a nation where sailing is officially smiled upon and supported, top down, by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. Arrival is expected mid-week next.
British quadriplegic Hilary Lister is half of the working crew along with Nashwa al Kindi, an instructor at Oman Sail and winner of the 2013 ISAF President Development Award for outstanding achievement. We can figure that al Kindi knows her beans, but this will be her first long voyage and, to make a point, the first recorded by an Arab female. Lister is the ocean veteran. She made her mark with a solo round-Britain voyage in 2009.
Yes, I spelled all those words right. Quadriplegic. Solo. Round-Britain. But despite being paralyzed from the neck down by Reflex Sympathetic Distrophy, Lister has advantages. She gets three straws.
Photo by Oman Sail
With that behind her, I’d figure that Lister can handle pretty much anything that she and al Kindi might encounter, Mumbai to Oman, but the high-energy, high-output development outfit, Oman Sail, has chosen to load two more bodies aboard the 28-foot Dragonfly trimaran, a yachtmaster to step in, should an emergency occur, and a medical pro to back up Lister.
The story is that Lister, 42, visited Oman last year to give inspirational programs at Oman Sail, and she and al Kindi hit it off, and something had to happen. The way I read wind patterns in the Arabian Sea via bloosee.com, I’d say the team is reaching along quite nicely as I write.
And no, when it’s her turn to stand watch, al Kindi doesn’t have to blow through straws. She can switch off Lister’s system and sail the boat the way most of us would sail itif we were sailing today, across the Arabian Sea, toward the mouth of the Persian Gulf.